With the onset of winter, large numbers of Australian Salmon migrate along the east coast, slowly making their way up towards the Queensland border. Each year is different and depending on oceanic currents they may travel as far as The Gold Coast if water temps are cold enough, although some years the sambos only make it as far north as Port Macquarie or Coffs Harbour.
The largest numbers of salmon are commonly found in waters from the NSW South Coast, up to Port Stephens and they can be particularly thick along the Central Coast. The real peak of the season, when huge mobs are frequently seen around headlands, inshore reef, along beaches and within larger bays or harbours is during August and September.
While it’s true that salmon aren’t everyone’s favourite species, many anglers thoroughly enjoy the fantastic inshore sport that these hard fighting fish offer. Getting stuck into some serious sambo action is also a great way to wake up from the winter doldrums!
My favourite environment for chasing salmon is from the rocks. In this case, the main aspect of the tackle being used is the rod length. If a rod is a bit short then line may rub on abrasive obstacles, snagging occurs and fish are lost. A long rod is obviously better, but if it’s extra-long then fighting fish starts to become more tiresome. So an ideal length is around the three metre mark.
There are some excellent rods that fit the bill in the Daiwa range, including Lateo, Air Edge Surf and Seabass models. Look for the ‘M’ at the end of the model name, which indicates the rod has a medium action. This means it’s suitable for casting weights from 10 to 40 grams and will provide the necessary power to deal with salmon, without sacrificing the all-important fun factor!
As for reels, I must admit to being a huge fan of the Surf Basia, which I believe is the pinnacle of light surf reel technology, but there is a wide choice of suitable reels including the Procargo, Blast and Vadel. The general idea is to go for a 4000 to 4500 size and spool it up with 8kg (20lb) braid or similar strength mono.
When lure casting from the rocks, braid definitely has the advantage of achieving better distance, but it’s vital that a mono leader be used to provide some cushioning during the casting process and when fighting fish. Without a mono leader everything becomes ‘jerky’ down at the business end, often resulting in fish throwing the hooks. While some anglers may prefer to use a fluorocarbon leader, I choose nylon mono for its extra stretch.
BAIT VS LURES
There’s no doubt at all that the good old pilchard pinned to a set of ganged hooks is the most effective thing to chuck at a mob of inshore sambos. Rarely will they refuse this sort of bait and if they do then chances are they may not want to bite any other sort of bait or lure either.
Having said that, lure casting can be convenient, cleaner and more fun. Pelting out slim profile metal lures around 20 grams to 30 grams may also enable the angler to reach fish that are further out, as more cumbersome baits simply don’t fly through the air as efficiently.
Large surface poppers or stickbait lures can also bring sambos undone and it certainly gets the heart racing when a pack of aggro salmon speed towards a lure on the surface. More often than not though, such lures only work around sunrise or sunset at this time of year.
If you can team them up with an appropriately sized jig head, soft plastic stickbaits around 100mm in length are another deadly type of lure to cast at salmon. In fact, they’re probably the best sambo lure of all. The problem with rock fishing is casting them far enough, so the reality is that these super softies are more suitable when fishing from a boat, rather than the shore. Still though, they’re well worth considering.
Try to cast baits or lures into or adjacent to washy water, next to deeper gutters or prominent points. Although salmon like to swim in clearer, deeper water, it’s amongst whitewash where they actually prefer to feed and are more inclined to bite your offering.
Like most other species, salmon are generally a lot easier to catch early in the morning or later of an evening, around sunset, rather than through the middle of the day. While tides are more important when beach fishing, the middle stages of a rising tide are usually more productive from the rocks or beach for that matter.
Work fast. Salmon don’t always come in close to the rocks, so when they do it’s a good idea to try and hook into as many as you can before they move on. Sometimes there may only be a 20 minute period when they’re within casting range and they may not re-appear for another hour or two.
They’re out there right now and will be for quite some time, so why not gear up and get amongst the action. One thing’s for sure, you’ll definitely warm up!